Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
For once, there’s an air of resolution about a Final Fantasy game. Producer Ichiro Hazama has hinted the Theatrhythm template could be applied to other series, but Curtain Call is comprehensive enough to make a direct follow-up irrelevant. The original looks miserly next to the 221 songs here, and with over 60 characters to add to your party, more options than anyone could ever need, and a wealth of trophies and unlockables that only the most dedicated players will get close to exhausting, few sequels are so generous.
Its tracklist is split between up-tempo Battle and gentler Field stages, with nostalgic but comparatively dull Event stages relegated to an occasional sideshow. Again, you’re tasked with hitting rhythmic markers as they scroll by while your party ambles along a path or faces off against a series of monsters. The structure has changed, however: from the start, you can now choose to play any stage from the 25-plus featured FF games across any of the three difficulty modes, or tackle a Quest Medley, a branching map where each node contains a song, and its terminus yields crystal shards, your currency for unlocking new party members.
Curtain Call doesn’t fix what wasn’t broken about its predecessor, nor mend what was. It’s too easy to get S rank or higher on Expert, even with several misses, and the game is inconsistent about the timing that defines a Critical hit. Neither control scheme is ideal: stylus swipes are all too often misread, but there’s too much travel on 3DS’s analogue nub to shift between diagonal cues rapidly, and if an undulating line cue ends in a directional marker you’re forced to remove your thumb a split-second early before pushing it in the right direction, lest it be misinterpreted as an early input.
Like the awkward portmanteau in its title, the game’s fusion of rhythm-action and RPG never quite fits as neatly as you’d hope. As Quest Medleys get tougher, you might use items to refill your health bar or increase the likelihood of a rare loot drop, but there’s no real strategy involved. Each level increase is adorably celebrated by your crew of marionettes, but these tiny stat boosts feel meaningless. And fudging your way to success with a series of items feels a lot like cheating; besides, if you’re good enough, you’ll hit enough Greats and Criticals to pass a stage without injury.
Still, as a celebration of the works of Messrs Uematsu, Sakimoto, Hamauzu and co, this farewell tour pulls out all the stops; an ageing supergroup playing not just its greatest hits but its B-sides, too, as well as some little-heard obscurities from the early days. It may not win any new fans, but it’s an encore that will earn warm applause from the devoted.